Commissioners discussed the possibility of passing an ordinance regulating swimming activity around the boat ramp located on Texas 87 in Precinct 3 near the swing bridge.

“We’re receiving more and more reports of swimmers in the area. There’s a hazard from boaters not being able to see the swimmers,” said Doug Manning, assistant county attorney.

Swimmers getting in the way of people trying to load and unload their boats are causing unsafe conditions.  John Gothia, a local boater and avid fisherman said sometimes, when he gets swimmers to move, they go right back, before he can even get to his truck.

Manning said he located an ordinance he had drafted some time ago, but had never been enacted.

Local game warden, Philip LeDoux said since there is no ordinance, they have no power to make the swimmers leave. He said boaters cannot see swimmers in the water and someone is going to get hurt.

With an ordinance, they can issue tickets and do something to fix the problem. Sheriff’s Deputies and Bridge City Police Department would also have authority with an ordinance in place.

“They have no place else to swim,” said LeDoux. “It’s the main portion that has public access. Most of Cow Bayou is private access. There is no regard for their safety and the safety of others at the boat ramp. If you’re just a head in the water, the boater may not see you and if you’re playing and horsing around you may not see this big trailer headed towards you.”  LeDoux said there is no other easy access for swimmers to get in and out of Cow Bayou. He has also been getting lots of reports of shouting matches between boaters and swimmers.

It is also popular to jump off an old bridge near there.

LeDoux said they can’t do anything about them jumping off the bridge either because it is not posted property and the gate is open.

He said the bridge is dangerous because some of the wood is missing and it would be easy to fall through. It was also mentioned if swimmers saw some of the stuff that has been removed from under the bridge, including vehicles, they would realize how dangerous it is to jump off in that location.

Gothia acknowledged the popularity of jumping off the bridge by kids for years. “I was one of those kids,” he said.

Gothia does not want to be responsible for someone getting hurt, because they wouldn’t stay out of the way while try to launch or trailer his boat. “It’s the boater who will be blamed.” Gothia said it is one of the most used boat ramps in the area.

Commissioners scheduled a public hearing next week at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, with Commissioners’ Court to take action at the 2 p.m. court session that same day.

The proposed ordinance will cover 500 feet either side of the boat ramp which would also include the bridge.

Jail passes inspection

In other business, Sheriff Keith Merritt informed the court the jail passed its yearly unannounced inspection.

“I’m happy to announce the jail passed with more than flying colors,” he said.

State law requires these yearly inspections. Merritt said the few things noted and corrected on sight did not result in any deficiencies.

“I know I say it every year and I’ll say it again this year. Travelling throughout the state and going to conventions and some conferences, we are so extremely fortunate to have a jail run the way we have with the staff we have.” He noted jails are a nightmare for commissioners and judges in some other parts of the state. “We don’t have that here. I’m so fortunate to have Capt. Harmon and Lt. Williams here,” said Merritt.

He said the surprise visits is not something you can hurry up and get ready for because you know it is coming. They start working as soon as they get the report to correct any problems and keep it operating that way throughout the year. He commended his officers for the excellent job they have done, once again.

County offered roadway easement

County Engineer Clark Slacum informed commissioners that he was approached by a landowner on Russell Road to donate to the county a 20 foot strip of land alongside the road. The gift would give an easement for future road expansion if and when they county chooses to do so. Russell Road is a narrow roadway with 20-30 residences.

The land owner is selling an 80 acre tract of land alongside the road and wishes to donate the easement for future expansion. Commissioners said they would consider accepting the donation as long as there was no expectation for the county to widen the road. It was decided an agreement would be brought before the court so they can study it, before taking any action.

County to fill vacant juvenile prosecutor position

The court authorized filling a vacant juvenile misdemeanor prosecutor position in the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. The position became vacant when Kim Hobbs went to work for Jefferson County.

Homestead exemption to stay the same

Commissioners voted to keep the current homestead exemption the same. Homeowners receive a 20 percent discount on their property taxes with the homestead exemption. Disabled homeowners and those over 65 get the 20 percent or $25,000 off, whichever is greater.

About Penny LeLeux

Penny has worked at The Record Newspapers since 2006. A member of the editorial staff, she has "done everything but print it." Most frequently she writes entertainment reviews and human interest stories, with a little paranormal thrown in from time to time.She has been a lifelong member of the Orangefield community.